Week three of the preseason is up and running and for the Panthers and Falcons that meant more frustration as both lost once again, now with a combined record of 1-6 during preseason. For the winless Falcons, yes the games are meaningless but you have to think that they will target a win in week four, albeit with backups, to get some momentum going into the season and avoid a rare 0-5 preseason shutout. On to more important points, we look at the best performances and biggest areas of concern from Thursday night.
Offensive Production A Concern
It’s only the preseason and the backups are getting the bulk of the time but the Panthers were truly anaemic on Thursday. They had 90 yards passing on 20 attempts, half negated by 42 yards lost by sacks and 51 yards on the ground from 17 attempts. The Panthers ran only 41 plays to the Pats’ 72 and held the ball for under 23 minutes. This has to change come week one, especially in a run-heavy attack.
Depth Behind Christian McCaffrey?
As mentioned above, the Panthers had just 51 yards, averaging 3 yards per carry. However, looking a little deeper, if you take out Christian McCaffrey’s contribution (16 yards from three caries), the rest of the team put up 35 yards from 14 carries, that’s an average of 2.5 yards per carry. They may chalk it up to a bad night and nothing going right on offence but this is further evidence that Carolina need to keep McCaffrey healthy.
Can Antwione Williams Make The Roster?
There was one standout performer for the Panthers and it came on defence. First round rookie Brian Burns continued to excite Panthers fans with five tackles and a couple of sacks but even he was outgunned. Antwione Williams put in a mammoth effort to record 8 tackles, six solo, a sack and a tackle for loss. The fourth year pro is on the roster bubble at ROLB but did his hopes of making the roster no harm with a stellar performance.
Etling & Ollison Lead Rushing Attack
It’s rare to see a QB lead the rushing figures, outside of Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson or Taysom Hill. However, Danny Etling was the man for the Falcons, with 48 yards off 7 attempts. Even removing his long of 18 yards, he had 30 yards off 6 carries. Qadree Ollison added 42 yards, though with a low average (3.5 yards) and Ito Smith averaged 4.6 yards on his five carries with the Falcons only TD. It looks as though the offensive line moves are starting to click.
Falcons Fumbling Problem
Atlanta seem to have a systemic issue as Thursday saw four more from four different players, losing three of these. That takes them to 10 in four games, losing five. Some of them are coming from lower roster players but Matt Ryan and backup RB Qadree Ollison are among the six players to have fallen foul of the fumble curse. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Falcons focusing on this ahead of the season.
Duke Riley Fighting For Roster Spot
Riley put in a solid performance with seven tackles, though only the one solo effort as he looks to add depth at strongside linebacker. He will need to be the first man on scene more often to earn a roster spot but certainly signs of encouragement. Elsewhere, the battle to be backup middle linebacker is heating up as Bruce Carter led the team with three solo tackles, with Del’Shawn Phillips (6 tackles, 2 solo) and Jermaine Grace (4 tackles, 2 solo) also impressing. The Falcons needed to improve on defence and competition will certainly help.